HALO: Iron Cross [Chapter Two]
Posted By: UNSC Trooper<email@example.com>
Date: 13 December 2007, 6:18 pm
"Our army is strong, our army is unified; our army is Earth itself." Unknown Major, The Rainforest Wars, 2162
0628 Hours, July 11, 2537 (Military Calendar) /
Solar System, Europa, Friesberg Armory, Special Weaponry Preserve A-32
Rear Admiral Stanforth walked through the eerie corridor, holding his hat to his thigh. The sounds of his footsteps echoed off the hollow walls. He reached for his side pocket and retracted a small piece of crumpled paper. He barely managed to read the letters through the cluster of coffee stains.
"R.A.M.S. U.N.S.C.M.I.S. 2834936" His authorization code read. Odd that such important personal information was mishandled. Between Stanforth's endless parties thrown at his apartment in downtown Mexico City, his job wasn't exactly listed as one of his top priorities. Even at a time when the United Nations Space Command was fighting two wars one against dictatorship-driven rebels terrorizing the outer colonies and another against a massive alien civilization didn't Stanforth care about his moral duty as a commanding officer of Earth's ever-shrinking military forces.
His position in FLEETCOM was often a controversial discussion subject at board meetings in Sydney and Mechanite Mountain. While his service record appeared to be acceptable, his methods of command proved otherwise. The incident in the Sigma Octanus IV system where he had accidentally fired upon a friendly cruiser exiting Slipspace scarred his career forever. The Navy was no place for screw-ups, and Stanforth had to learn it the hard way.
Stanforth scrutinized the paper; he felt his eyelids getting increasingly heavier. His lack of sleep hindered him from concentrating on doing just about anything. He stopped in front of the locked door, rubbed his eyes, took a deep breath and punched the authorization code into the console.
The metallic door made a hissing sound, its lights winked and it slid open. The Admiral took one step forward and looked around the immense chamber. The room was surrounded by hundreds of shelves and tall lockers. A graceful melody of electronic equipment and computer engines resounded through the chamber. He put the small piece of paper back into his pocket.
A young officer approached Stanforth and saluted politely, "Good morning sir, glad you could make it." He said. The Admiral returned the salute. He didn't say anything.
"The deposit is over there, please follow me." The officer said as he gestured towards one of the shelves.
Hidden deep inside a frozen mountain on the Jovian moon of Europa, the "Friesberg Armory" was a top-secret UNSC Defense Force weaponry supplier. But it was no ordinary armory. It held the secrets to something that hadn't been talked about in three hundred years.
Stanforth followed the officer. He had suddenly awakened from his sleepy mood. Perhaps it was the sour smell of age-old equipment that sparked his interest in finding out what exactly happened here while he was gone.
The officer directed the Admiral to one of the long lines of shelves. The props were holding an awkward looking type of bolster for what seemed to be a bomb. The bolsters were empty.
"This is the hanger for one of the bombs." The officer said as he turned and made eye contact with Stanforth. "As you can see, the panel was hacked."
Hacked - how could someone hack into a deposit for nuclear weapons? Surely the dozens of technicians working in the armory were the only people who knew the codes for the control panels. It sounded like an inside job; but who could have done it?
"You mentioned one. I can assume there are more." Stanforth acknowledged. He frowned at the man.
"Yes sir, there are more one hundred more." The officer replied. Stanforth raised his eyebrows. The words stroke the Admiral like a thunder bolt. He stared at the officer, silent. He rested his elbow on his left hand, lowered his head and closed his eyes. The word "court-martial" suddenly strode through his mind. Jesus, how do I get out of this one? He thought.
The officer grew worried about Stanforth's reaction, "Sir, are you alright?" he asked with a careful tone.
The Admiral lifted his head, "A hundred nukes have just disappeared on my watch, how the hell do you think I am?" he shouted, hardly restraining his anger. "What options do we have at the moment?" he queried.
"Investigations are currently underway." The officer said, nodding to the Admiral, "ONI Section One has our backs covered, and funds are being transferred as we speak." He continued. A strange silence followed, interrupted only by the continuous murmur of electronic equipment.
The Admiral threw him a suspicious look. He couldn't let this incident go public, not after everything that's been happening in the outer colonies. Stanforth walked away from the officer, stopped and gazed at one of the computer screens. The images of the murdered naval personnel onboard the Daytona raced through his mind; their corpses mutilated, surrounded by puddles of blood made his skin crawl. He turned towards the officer.
"Let's pray it wasn't the rebels." He said. The officer nodded and lowered his head, as if something had bothered him. Stanforth couldn't help but wonder why the United Rebel Front would be interested in ancient nuclear bombs they were inefficient, and not nearly as sophisticated as UNSC-manufactured warheads.
Above all, these bombs used to belong to the Frieden secessionists back in the twenty-second century, and represented the backup plan for liberating the Jovian Moons from UN leadership. The plan was foiled, however, when the UN destroyed their development platforms on Io, putting an end to the rebellion.
Stanforth calculated how long the investigations would last, tapping his lower lip with his finger. Blue-prints, grids and thermo-graphic maps of every single outer colony had to be provided. Numerous cruisers and carriers traveling in and out of the Solar System had be checked and re-checked for black market items. It would cost the UNSC a small fortune.
There was no movement in the room, both the Admiral and the officer stood still in front of one another. Stanforth flattened his long hair, put on his hat, patted his coat's sleeves and waited for the dust to pass off. He lighted a Sweet William cigar, blew the smoke out of his mouth and headed for the door.
The officer watched Stanforth walk toward the exit, "Sir?" he said.
The Admiral turned around, grabbed the cigar with two fingers and lowered his hand. His voice was calm, "Those damned ODSTs' on Reach better live up to their reputation. I have a job for them. At ease, Corporal!" He said and saluted the officer as he walked away.